NSW wildlife attractions look to reopen with new safety rules in place
Following two months of lockdown due to the COVID-19 crisis, the NSW Government has announced that zoos, wildlife attractions and aquaria can reopen on 1st June.
NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean noted that the reopening would be contingent on the development of a COVID-19 safety plan that addressed the measures in the NSW Health checklist. Due to zoos and wildlife attractions being largely outdoors and with social-distancing conditions acceptable for the visiting public, a number of NSW wildlife attractions including the Australian Reptile Park and Taronga Zoo are looking to reopen on 1st June 2020.
The “new normal” operations are designed to ensure visitors remain safe while also protecting staff.
The reopening of the Australian Reptile Park comes as welcome news for NSW residents with the Central Coast wildlife sanctuary being inundated with enquiries and requests daily for the Park to reopen.
Commenting on the reopening, Director Tim Faulkner (pictured below) enthused “we are so excited to be reopening to the public! During these unprecedented times, visiting a wildlife park with your family is the best way to connect with nature and each other. Connecting with nature and experiencing the natural world is what we do at the Reptile Park and I can’t wait to share that again with our visitors. People have been asking for weeks when we are reopening and craving this kind of activity for their family, so we are so happy we can deliver an amazing experience to them!”
Faulkner continued “I am also extremely proud of how the team adapted to transferring our connection with the public virtually during lockdown. As a conservationist, connecting people with nature is what I do, and tens-of millions of people watched our educational videos and live streams – that’s incredible! We knew we had started something special when parents were flooding our comments with images of their kids drawing our animals and doing their daily homework. We’re excited to have all of our new online friends, and of course our existing supporters, visit us when we reopen next week!"
Park staff have continued working throughout lockdown to care for the Australian Reptile park’s 3,000+ animals. In addition to attending to the animals during lockdown, the Australian Reptile Park has been at the forefront of virtual zoo experiences through their daily educational videos and livestreams. In the two months the Park has been closed, over 100 videos have been produced amassing tens-of-millions of views worldwide.
To welcome back visitors, the Australian Reptile Park is offering FREE one-hour, guided tours included with their general admission ticket! The Park is open as usual and the guided tours will be limited to nine visitors per group. This guided tour will take visitors throughout the Australian Reptile Park, behind the scenes, and animal encounters. Tours are run between 9.30am and 2.30pm and visitors will be allocated tour times upon arrival to the Park, general admission and park access is from 9am – 5pm daily. The Australian Reptile Park is encouraging visitors to pre-book their entry tickets prior to arrival. Tickets can be purchased their website www.reptilepark.com.au
The Australian Reptile Park is taking extra precautions to keep visitors, staff and animals safe and all details about the upgraded health and safety can be found on their website www.reptilepark.com.au
Sydney's Taronga Zoo is also set to reopen to the public on 1st June with social-distancing strictly in place, hand sanitisers available for visitors and extra cleaning and disinfection taking place.
Visitor numbers will be limited to maintain the four-square-metre-per-person rule. Visitor numbers will be reduced to around half of the usual capacity with those wanting to attend requiring to purchase tickets online or registering their attendance.
The traditional 20 zookeeper shows – some which allow visitors to interact with the animals – are on hold for now to prevent the gathering of crowds, including the giraffe feeding and koala encounters.
Also on hold are guided tours, although visitors will be able to listen in to talks via Taronga TV on their personal devices as they walk around the zoo.
The popular seal show and free flight bird shows will run although seating requirements will require family groups to sit up to two metres apart.
To welcome visitors back, Taronga is temporarily offering a 25% discount on tickets while also halving the price of carparking to $9.
As for protecting visitors, there will be a significant focus on cleaning of seating, bathroom and cafes with hand sanitiser and paper towers available throughout the park.
Taronga Conservation Society Australia Chief Executive, Cameron Kerr noted “Taronga Zoo is a place where guests can foster meaningful connections with wildlife and enjoy time in nature, which we know is so important for our physical and mental health.”
For more information go to https://taronga.org.au/sydney-zoo
Also planning to reopen soon (however as yet to announce their reopening date) is WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo. Ahead of the reopening, Davey the Quokka (pictured above) was given a chance to meet with other animals including koalas, bearded dragons, cassowary and even bravely came eye to eye with their mammoth Saltwater crocodile, Rocky.
For more information go to https://www.wildlifesydney.com.au/
The 1st June reopening coincides with the relaxation of other restrictions across New South Wales, including the allowance of up to 50 customers in pubs, cafes and restaurants and regional travel.
Images top: Australian Reptile Park Keeper Daniel Rumsey with Hugo the tortoise and centre Australian Reptile Park Director Tim Faulkner courtesy of Australian Reptile Park; Taronga Zoo Seal show courtesy of Taronga Zoo; and above WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo's Davey the Quokka courtesy of WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo.
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